Comparing Duluth’s market-based broadband solution to Superior’s Municipal open access model

Duluth News Tribune reports…

Superior is considering a $31 million investment in a fiber optic network, while Duluth is prepared to put $1 million on the table as the city weighs its options.

Duluth News Tribune goes on to compare the two cities based on broadband access; it’s a story of market-based solutions and city sponsored open access model.

The story in Duluth…

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has offered a harsh assessment of the city’s dominant broadband service provider: Spectrum Internet. …

But Larson remains unimpressed and has proposed the city spend $1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds “to incentivize new service providers to enter the market” and compete with Spectrum. …

Schuchman concurred [with uneven access in Duluth], saying: “I do think one of the challenges we have is that there are areas of the city that do not have broadband, and so, while the city in general does, and we are considered ‘served’ at that point, we also have some gaps. So, it’s really important to the city and the community to close those gaps and make sure that we have equitable distribution of that access and that it is consistent and high-quality.”

Tyler Cooper, editor-in-chief of BroadbandNow, said the situation in the Twin Ports is “unfortunately, a story shared among cities and towns across the U.S.”

“Often, a given provider will own the phone lines, while another will own the cable lines. This creates a de facto duopoly which is one of the central barriers to broadband expansion across the country,” he said

The story in Superior…

Meanwhile, across the river in Superior, aggressive efforts to boost Spectrum’s competition in the Twin Ports are taking even clearer shape. At a Thursday night listening session, representatives of EntryPoint Networks laid out plans to potentially build out an open-access fiber optic network in Superior at an estimated cost of about $31 million. …

“It’s a robust digital road, and it’s open to, in this case, any ISP (internet service provider) that will follow the rules,” Christensen said.

For its part, the city would require users of this fiber network to pay a toll or fee that would be used to help pay off the cost of building and maintaining the system.

Christensen said the fiber network would offer customers speeds of 1 gigabit per second for both downloads and uploads, likely at a monthly cost of about $50, give or take 10%. He said the network would need a minimum of about 3,000 subscribers to be sustainable and is likely to easily exceed that threshold.

The rest of the article outlines the differences, benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

Photo from Duluth News Tribune: A chart taken from a Connect Superior Webinar video on YouTube.

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